To Harrisburg: What we need in a Pennsylvania budget

Harrsiburg capitol building

One year ago, Governor Wolf, shortly after taking office, proposed his version of a 2015-16 Pennsylvania budget. Negotiations and a final budget were supposed to be completed by June 30 by state legislators — the one part of their jobs they are by law required to do. Instead, just before Christmas, after months of partisan bickering within the General Assembly and with the governor, Republican leaders of the PA House of Representatives blocked the passage of the compromise budget framework that the governor and the rest of the legislature had carefully reached.

In order not to further delay the funding of human service agencies and schools, which had been frozen pending a budget deal, Gov. Wolf then signed an emergency budget. This partial budget fails to achieve Wolf’s original aim of restoring full funding to Pennsylvania’s schools and human services, among other goals. It also awaits state legislators determining new sources of revenue for the state – critical for Pa. as we are facing a budget shortfall of $318 million for this year and $1.8 billion next year. Without new revenue, we will be facing even further cuts to our schools and to the most crucial government services, many of which have been underfunded for nearly a decade.

Today, a week before Gov. Wolf unveils his ideas for the 2016-17 budget, Just Harvest joined a diverse coalition of Pennsylvania organizations in sending our analysis of what must come next in this budget crisis. Our budget proposal, reached after careful analysis by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and through the collaboration of more than 30 Pennsylvania nonprofits, makes specific recommendations for state spending and revenue for the coming year that will:

  • fairly raise taxes to increase investments in education and workforce development,
  • promote shared prosperity,
  • protect those in need,
  • protect the environment,
  • reform the criminal justice system,
  • and revitalize democracy.

“A 2016-17 Budget for PA’s Future” speaks to the needs of the majority of Pennsylvanians.

 

Memo to Gov. Wolf and the General Assembly: Recommendations for the 2016-17 Pennsylvania BudgetMemo to Gov. Wolf and the General Assembly: Recommendations for the 2016-17 Budget

Date: Tuesday, February 2, 2016

To: Governor Wolf and the members of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania

From: 32 concerned organizations

RE: Recommendations for the 2016-17 Budget

We, the undersigned organizations, are recommending the enactment of a 2016-17 budget that invests in Pennsylvania’s future.

We are advocacy organizations and service providers, educators and environmentalists, labor unions and local agencies and faith-based organizations. We serve and represent people in communities across the state. We are diverse in terms of our organizational concerns, missions, structures, and goals, but we are united in our appeal to you for the timely enactment of a responsible, forward-looking state budget.

The 2015-16 budget remains unfinished and incomplete. This needs to be addressed and resolved immediately. Critical programs and services remain at funding levels below where they were prior to the recession, and there are many others that have been under-funded for even longer. As the recent Independent Fiscal Office report shows, the state faces a severe structural deficit that threatens to bring additional credit downgrades and further cuts to crucial programs that educate our children and provide health care and services to the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. Resolving the 2015-16 budget and enacting a responsible budget for 2016-17 requires raising additional revenue to close the structural deficit and make the necessary investments in the programs that benefit individual Pennsylvanians and the commonwealth as a whole.

The attached document (“A 2016-17 Budget for Pennsylvania’s Future”) recommends ways to raise the needed revenue in a fair manner and identifies particular programs that require additional investment. While not every organization listed below is advocating for every program in this document, we are all in agreement that Pennsylvania needs a responsible state budget that provides the resources needed for the goods we seek in common and which we cannot attain without government action.

Sincerely,

Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition

Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture)

CLEAR Coalition

Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, Inc.

Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania

Education Voters Action Fund of Pennsylvania

Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger

Hunger-Free Pennsylvania

Just Harvest

Keystone Research Center

League of Women Voters Pennsylvania

Mental Health America of Westmoreland County

Mental Health Association of Northwestern Pennsylvania

Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania

PAR (Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability)

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center

Pennsylvania Coalition to End Homelessness

Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Pennsylvania Food Banks

Philadelphia Education Fund

PRO-ACT (Pennsylvania Recovery Organization-Achieving Community Together)

Resources for Human Development

Service Employees International Union Healthcare PA

Service Employees International Union, Local 668

Sierra Club PA Chapter

The Arc of Pennsylvania

The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1776

Women’s Opportunities Resource Center

Women’s Way

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